Immunity and Accountability
January 16, 2020

Shaniz’s nightmare started when she stopped home with her children in tow one afternoon in 2014 to find her house surrounded by five local police officers. They told her they were looking for her ex-boyfriend, who was wanted on firearms charges. Shaniz said she didn’t think he was in her home—he certainly wasn’t supposed to be—but she said that the officers could go in to see for themselves.

But the officers did not even try keys she gave them: Instead, they called in the local SWAT team and laid siege to the house, bombarding it from the outside with tear-gas grenades. When it was all over, Shaniz’s home and all her possessions were destroyed and (just as Shaniz had said) the ex-boyfriend was nowhere to be found. Instead, the police had spent half a day bombarding and besieging a house that was empty except for Shaniz’s dog, Blue.

With her life in shambles, her personal property either destroyed or coated in a toxic film leftover from the tear gas, Shaniz—who was left homeless for months following the siege—sued to challenge the warrantless destruction of her home and property. The officers defended their actions by claiming that they didn’t need a warrant because Shaniz had given them consent to go into the home. Amazingly, the judge bought the police’s defense.

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